light, shining, yellow, The three-phase model of trauma treatment

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The three-phase model of trauma treatment

trauma is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that affects millions of people worldwide. It can result from various types of adverse experiences, such as abuse, violence, accidents, disasters, war, or loss. trauma can have profound and lasting effects on the psychological, emotional, physical, and social wellbeing of survivors. Therefore, trauma-informed care is essential for helping survivors cope and heal from their traumatic experiences. One of the most widely used and evidence-based approaches to trauma-informed care is the three-phase model of trauma treatment. This model provides a comprehensive and flexible framework for addressing the diverse and complex needs of trauma survivors. In this article, we will introduce the three-phase model of trauma treatment, explain its main components and goals, and discuss its applications and limitations in clinical practice.

What is the three-phase model of trauma treatment?

The three-phase model of trauma treatment is a framework that guides the therapist and the client through the process of healing from complex trauma. It was developed by Pierre Janet, one of the first psychologists to study trauma and dissociation, and has been widely adopted by experts in the field. It is based on the idea that trauma recovery involves three main tasks: stabilizing the client, processing the traumatic memories, and integrating the new sense of self and meaning into the present life. The three phases are not rigid or linear, but rather flexible and recursive, depending on the needs and goals of each client.

The three phases are:

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Phase I: Safety, Stabilization and Engagement. This phase focuses on establishing a trusting relationship between the therapist and the client, enhancing the client’s coping skills, reducing symptoms of dissociation, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc., creating a safety plan and a network of support, learning about trauma and its effects, developing self-care and self-regulation strategies, and creating a sense of safety and stability in the present. The first phase also focuses on managing symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, dissociation, and self-harm.

Phase II: Processing of Traumatic Memories and meaning Making for Self. This phase involves confronting and working through the traumatic memories in a safe and structured way, using techniques such as exposure, cognitive restructuring, emotion regulation, narrative therapy, etc. The goal is to help the client process the emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and sensations associated with the trauma, reduce its impact and distress, and create a coherent and integrated narrative of their life story.

Phase III: Developing Sense of Personal and Relational Integrity and Wellbeing. This phase aims to help the client consolidate their gains from the previous phases, integrate their new sense of self and identity into their current life, reconnect with others and form healthy relationships, explore their values and goals, find meaning and purpose in their life, and enjoy positive experiences in the present. This phase also involves helping the client access, explore, and reprocess traumatic memories and emotions, challenge negative beliefs and cognitions, and integrate the traumatic experiences into a coherent narrative. This phase aims to help the client consolidate their identity, resolve any remaining issues or conflicts, reconnect with their values and goals, and develop healthy relationships and social support.

The three-phase model of trauma treatment is widely used and supported by research as an effective way to help clients recover from complex trauma. It is important to note that each client is unique and may require different interventions and pacing depending on their situation and preferences. The therapist should always tailor the treatment to the client’s needs and collaborate with them throughout the process.

The therapist and client may move back and forth between phases depending on the client’s needs and readiness. The model also allows for individualization and adaptation to different types of trauma, such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, natural disasters, etc. The model is based on the principles of trauma-informed care, which emphasize respect, collaboration, empowerment, and safety for both the therapist and the client.

Some examples of conditions that tend to be treated by the three-phase model of trauma treatment are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex PTSD, dissociative identity disorder (DID), borderline personality disorder (BPD) and other disorders related to childhood abuse or neglect.

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Effectiveness of the three-phase model of trauma treatment

The model is supported by empirical evidence and clinical experience as an effective way to treat complex trauma (Quaderia & Hunter 2016; Blue Knot Foundation 2012; Phoenix Australia 2013).

Further reading

For further reading on the three-phase model of trauma treatment, you may refer to these weblinks:

Introduction to Three Phase trauma Framework – Learn


The Three Phases of trauma Treatment – Rising Tides Healing Centre

The three-phase approach: part three – Carolyn Spring

Tri-Phasic Model – The trauma Practice Research Project (TPRP)

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